With Hungary as one of the brightest sparks at the 2016 European Championship finals in France, legendary goalkeeper Gabor Kiraly is out there standing in the limelight, unwillingly and unknowingly becoming a true football icon, a nation’s hero.
The 40-year-old Hungary international’s carefree attitude has made him a Euro 2016 sensation with world football going crazy over the sweatpants-wearing shot stopper.
Infamous tracksuit bottoms
Dubbed the Pyjama Man, Gabor Kiraly started wearing jogging bottoms at the very beginning of his career, at the place where it all started – Haladas. Standing between the stick for his hometown club, Kiraly was wearing black leggings at the time his side fought relegation in Hungary.
With his usual pair of bottoms dirty before a game, Haladas kit man brought Kitaly some grey ones which turned out to be quite lucky – as Kiraly himself claims – with Haladas going on a nine-match beatless run during which time Gabor Kiraly conceded only two goals.
Not your usual football star, Gabor Kiraly is not concerned about fashion trends. It’s like he said at the beginning of the European Championship – “I’m a goalie, not a top model. It’s essentially a question of comfort, and I take size above to make movements easier”.
God bless his sense of humour but wearing the good old jogging bottoms has more to do than just comfort. KIraly’s superstitious methods go beyond wearing only those bottoms. Kiraly is sporting a basketball shirt under his green Hungary top – a No13 with a tiger on it and he always puts left shin pad on first.
Thanks to these revelations from his Hungary teammate Zoltan Gera, world football was lucky to get more insight into one of the most recognisable men in game’s history.
Kiraly in history books
There is much more to Gabor Kiraly than tracksuit bottoms and little superstitions.
At his 40s, Gabor Kiraly has this year became the oldest player to ever play in the Euros. He broke the record against Austria as he was lined up in the starting team at exactly 40 years and 75 days years of age.
Gabor Kiraly broke the record of former Germany captain Lothar Matthaus, who appeared at Euro 2000 aged 39 years and 91 days. Hungary keeper extended the record against Iceland and Portual, while he is on the way to cement his place in the history books as Hungary get ready to take on Belgium in the knockout stage on Sunday.
Undisputed Hungary’s first choice shot stopper boasts brilliant 22 years long career with spells at Crystal Palace, West Ham and Aston Villa. Magyar’s custodian remains best known for his seven-year stint at Hertha BSC, while he also represented Bayer Leverkusen and 1860 Munich during his time in Germany.
Currently at Haladas – at a place where it all began – Gabor Kiraly is counting his last playing days with a million dollar smile upon his face cherishing every moment spent on the pitch.
Can his charisma push Hungary forward
It’s been 52 years since Hungary last appeared at the European Championship finals, but Magyar team are the definite proof that hard work and dedication find their way to award you with ultimate prize.
Hungarian football was called dead not longer than two years ago with national team suffering humiliation at every step of the way, the latest example being a 2-1 defeat to Northern Ireland which caused an uproar in the public with calls for former manager Attila Pintar to be sacked getting louder and louder.
The man took responsibility and left, sparking a fresh new attitude around the national team, with Pal Dardai paving way for Bernd Storck, a man who induced German precision in the Hungarian passion for a brilliant end result of a disciplined approach towards every game with a uniquely brilliant team spirit with legendary Gabor Kiraly in the epicentre.
Hungarian goalkeeper enjoys Storck’s unreserved support despite his age which bears no importance for the German tactician.
Kiraly’s beaming personality accompanied with incredible aura and one of a kind charisma make this 40-year-old a player which radiates infectious confidence his teammates use for the benefit of the team.
As one of the most positive surprises of the tournament, Hungary have been given huge 6/1 betting odds to stun Belgium in their last 16 clash on Sunday. After some inspiring displays in the group stage of the competition, no one can dare to rule them out in advance.
How far can Kiraly’s Hungary go?